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  1. Piedmont is not as warm as Sicily in winter, but obviously not as hot in summer. It may not have the cachet of Tuscany, but then also doesn't have the swarms of tourists either and you can't beat the food and wine. I would contact Toni Hilton, an American living here for many years and married to a Piedmontese who rents houses in small towns in the Northern Monferrato, an area of unspoilt beauty dotted with small hilltop villages and castles, closest city is Asti and within an hour drive to Turin for big city visits (or two hours to Milan) and an hour to the Mediterranean if you want a seaside excursion. But start on your Italian lessons for the whole family now! http://www.casainmonferrato.com/index.html
  2. Hi Jesse from Oakland, its been many years since I lived there! Cascina Sant'Eufemia near Sinio is in the Langhe and gets good reviews on Trip Advisor, and would fit the description of what you are looking for. Also Bella Baita in Val Chisone. We are also an agri-turismo (Villa Sampaguita) located near Asti but we are not a budget B&B (although too be fair we are very reasonably priced for what we offer). We have some old friends from Sebastabol also coming to Terre Madre going to stay with us. Cheers
  3. Slow Food just released the program for Salone del Gusto 2010 . Just a quick scan through the Taste Workshops and Theatre of Taste is enough to start the mouth watering and drive the senses into expectant overdrive! .http://www.salonedelgusto.it/welcome.lasso# I would suggest booking early for the popular workshops go quickly in this region of food and wine lovers. The site is only up and running since last night and in beta mode, still only in Italian, language options and links to workshops not finished yet, I am sure that over the next few weeks it will be tutt'aposto. Waiting for the debate on which workshops everyone wants to attend?
  4. Alex, welcome to Piedmont for your honeymoon! It sounds like as if you have your (top-end) restaurants already mapped out. But when you ask about wine-country, in fact the central wine area of Piedmont has 4 separate wine areas, Monferrato Basso (where you will be staying), Monferrato Alto, Langhe and Roero, and you will not be able to cover them in one day. If it were me I would stick to your local area and take it in, good wineries all over the place, I like especially Castagnole Monferrato, the Ruche wine area, Cocconato (Bava or Dezzani) and Castlenouvo Don Bosco, the Fresia wine region. so many wonderful little osterie all over the place, I can think of Cascina Rosengana in Cocconato, Merlo Ghiotone in C.Monferrato and Swiss Chef's favourite Da Maria in nearby Zanco. If you eat at the first one you won't want big dinner that's for sure. Cascinale is down by Asti, so you could vary your route and go to either Barolo or Barbaresco and do dinner on the way home - long day. Its hard to go wrong with any small osterie in the area, except one which I blasted last year as a disgrace to Piedmont. But why not ask your hosts to set up an itinerary for you? Combal Zero is over by Turin, I would spend the day in that fascinating and overlooked by tourists city. Enjoy!
  5. That's funny, I thought I posted their website link, I guess it didn't stick. Its not hard to find Rodino is not a big town, but here is the website with address and phone, also our Facebook public album of photos from the day. Osterie d Gemma Villa Sampaguita Facebook Album
  6. After a busy 2009 season we are taking advantage of autumn mid-week days without houseguests to explore new aspects of Piedmont. The mission this week was part of our ongoing hunt for organic and traditional Barolo wineries, followed by lunch at some nice little trattorie off the Internet trail. Accordingly we started in Barolo town at Cantina Giacomo Borgogno, a venerable winery who has been there since 1761. Borgogno has just this year built a new tasting facility and over-the-ground premises, the cellars date back to early 1900’s, although renovated several times of course. Modern equipment is used for the fermentation process, but the aging is all done for at least 3 years in traditional big barrels from four to eight thousand litres in size, not one barrique in the cellar! The winery puts aside a large reserve of older vintages (their Barolo Riserva is only sold after 10 years of aging) and it was fascinating for me to stand see a bin full of 1961 bottles, selling for over 500 euro each (my first Barolo I ever had was a 1961, for which I paid less then $10 a bottle in 1980). Wonderful Barolo wines, we tasted the 1998 and 2004 vintages, not quite as intense as the Barolo’s of yore, but still worthy of the name. After the tasting we decided to skip the more famous restaurants and chose the Osterie “da Gemma” listed in Slow Food’s book in the little town of Rodino, between Monforte and Serralunga – the price looked good after spending the winter’s entire budget in Barolo! Osterie Della Gemma The outside of the restaurant was very low key, and not terribly inviting, but going up the stairs we found a new dining room with picture window views over the Alte Langhe (or would have been if it hadn’t been a foggy day). Foggy day in Langhe Very nice and crisp linen on the tables, but still a rustic touch. At one o’clock on a weekday the place was quite full, mostly locals, even some painters in their overalls, definitely not a foreigner in site. The menu was fixed, and as we sat down a couple of chunks of salami (one crudo, one cotto) on a cutting board with a knife appeared with the bread for us to slice ourselves (is this what they call an amuse-bouche?). No wine list, everyone was drinking the house Dolcetto in an unlabelled bottle (5 euro), but after those Barolo’s we needed something a bit more substantial and selected a 2005 Nebbiolo d’Alba by Teo Cappellano (another venerable Barolo name) from the wine shelf. Wine list Cappellano Nebbiolo The first anti-pasti course consisted of two generous portions, an insalata russa, a bit like egg mayonnaise sandwich spread with peas (in November?), the other an insalata di carne cruda for meat lovers like Rina who pronounced it great. Antipasti 1 Tim told them that he didn’t eat red-meat and so they brought a plate of fresh-made agnolloti al plin, stuffed with spinach. It was nothing new, but absolutely fresh and delicious, obviously made in their kitchen (how fresh we were to discover a bit later). Antipasti2 Rina’s next anti-pasto was vitello tonnato. Living in Piedmont, what can we say about vitello tonnato? Delicate thin slices of veal with tuna sauce, for serious foodies it’s always a question about the combination, but somehow they work very well together. Antipasti3 The next dishes up were the tajarin (tagliatelle), plain for Tim (no problem, it was fresh and delicious with a touch of parmigiano (not really needed), and tajarin al ragu for Rina. Everyone has their own way of cooking ragu, which is basically mincemeat and tomato sauce, most common, however Gemma definitely had her own style and Rina ate the whole dish! This was followed by a ravioli al ragu for Rina, the same sauce from the pasta. Primo As a second the server asked us if we would like Rabbit or Chicken and proposed a cheese plate for Tim, however we did plump for the chicken – which was definitely not the plump-buttery variety, a touch of toughness in the meat indicated free-range, confirmed by our waitress as pollo della compagna, however quite delicious and accompanied with finocchio cotto (stewed fennel) which Tim thought was quite nice as an accompaniment. Secondi We had seen an incredible range of deserts circulating our neighbor’s tables, including the biggest Bunet we had ever seen; a whole dinner plate’s worth, which instantly explained the English translation of “bonnet”, and which you cut yourself as much as you wanted. Rina is not a glutton for sweets, but Tim insisted in the name of science that we try them all. Besides the Bunet, which was delicious, firm and mouth-melting, there was dolce all'ananas – more like a tiramisù with pineapple - OK but not mind-blowing, a meringata, a sort of pudding with crisp meringue – Tim had two helpings and a strudel, which we were just too full to eat. Sadly they did not have any passito wine by the glass. Dolce After chatting to our neighbouring table, 2 men from Torino having a “business lunch” which included grappa to fortify them for the hours drive back; we collected the bill, a numbing 40-euro for the food including table charge and coffee, plus 15 euro for the wine. They did give us a discount for Tim’s “vegetarian plate”, normally its 25 euro each for the set, but for the amount and quality of the food, you could not beat it. On the way out we asked to thank Gemma in person and were directed to a room on the ground floor, where we found the equivalent of the Rodino ladies pasta-bee all busy making up the fresh pasta. Gemma was chopping the taglioni by hand, and the others were preparing the agnolotti. Rina got an impromptu hands on lesson in making the Agnolotti al plin (literally pinched), mini-ravioli’s made by holding a spoonful of the filling in the left hand, and a table knife in the right, using the tip to transfer the fillings onto the edge of a flat sheet of pasta, rolling over the edge, pinching the individual packets and then cutting. No wonder it all tasted so fresh. Agnolotti al plin Agnolotti Plin2 Gemma chops tajarin After this we stopped to say hello to our friends the Rivetto family at “Rivetto dal 1902” winery near Serralunga, some more wine tastings, and they told us that actually the menu at “da Gemma” is always the same, so it’s a one-off restaurant to visit, but we highly recommend it as a real local osterie for visitors touring Barolo valley.
  7. Well it seems that Eataly franchise is rapidly expanding; besides the flagship in Turin, now joined by other EATALYS in Bologna, Milan, Pinerolo and Tokyo (anyone know what happened to the New York one?), a new Eataly will open in December in Asti. This Eataly is in partnership with a company called (what else) TUIT (web site only in Italian) and will be located just off Piazza Alfieri on Via Grandi, on the same street as the Teatro Alfieri - in fact I found out walking to the ticket office to apply for opera tickets-and it looks like as if it will be principally a restaurant. Will keep everyone posted of course.
  8. Hey Man, you caught me out I used the word "prosciutto" as a generic description for a cold cut, but it definitely wasn't pancetta, but some other cut, I am not really an expert on hog parts
  9. We took a day off on a beautiful early October Sunday to go to the truffle festival in Castagnole Monferrato, North East of Asti and the centre of the Ruche wine zone. Driving through the hilltop town we saw a restaurant with a beautiful courtyard complete with ivy on the walls, a grape arbour, and aromatic herbs in pots, which just whispered for us to try it. Il Merlone Gioittone The fair was quite small, lots of stands with the local wine producers offering tastings, but no sign of the advertised pro-loco eating tent, so we slipped back to the restaurant and made a reservation, and went back to the festival in time for the band and the prize awards for the biggest truffles. The winner weighed in at 210 grams, a whopper worth close to 1000 euro on the market. Also impressive was a basket of large (100 gram) truffles weighing around a kilo and a half, worth around 5000 euro and giving off the most pungent aroma. No imported truffles here! Now famished by the intoxicating smell of the truffles and many sips of Ruche wine we walked back to the restaurant and realized how lucky we had been to get a reservation, as it was completely full, I think having our granddaughter of 9 months helped get the table as this was a real family restaurant, lots of children and family groups enjoying Sunday lunch which naturally featured truffles. The atmosphere was great, everyone ogled the baby and both the settings and the service were impeccable. We were placed on a table next to a toddler of 18 months, and the two bambine got on immediately. No menu, a completely set lunch, started with a mixed antipasti; Russian salad on a thin piece of toast shaped into rabbits ears; minced carne cruda; prosciutto; a vegetable frittata; and thin slices of roasted beef with mustard sauce, and we elected to start with a sparkling white. The owner bought out several bottles for us to look at and we chose a Frattina Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene at 16 euro. Normally we shun Russian salad as a quick and easy starter; basically chicken salad with veggies and mayonnaise but this one was impeccable. In fact all of the antipasti were just perfect with the exception of the prosciutto, which was a bit fatty for our taste. Tim who is a non meat eater even ate the thin slices of roasted beef and said they melted in his mouth, although he drew the line at the raw meat, so I swapped my frittata for his carne cruda. Primo piatto was tajarin ai funghi e panna (taglietelle with mushrooms and cream) cooked just right with mushrooms (I couldn’t quite place the type, not your normal champignon) and I would think the pasta was cooked in chicken brodo – buonissimo! An absolutely delicious rendition of a simple and classical Piedmontese dish. By now we were out of Prosecco, and looked through the very adequate wine list, featuring not only many Ruches, but of course a full selection of local Barbera d’Asti’s and other Piedmont wines, including some excellent Rabaja Barbaresco’s. A few months ago we had had a Ruche wine blind tasting at Villa Sampaguita with 14 different bottles, so we were familiar with all the bottles, and we elected to go with a Montalbore 2008 (15 euro), which had placed second in our tasting over the Sant’Agata Pro-Nobis. The latter wine was on the menu, but I had thought the Montalbore to be a more classic Ruche style, the Pro-Nobis was a bit on the glamorous side, which had attracted the novice drinkers who out-pointed the others. The secondi piatti was a bowl of agnolloti stuffed with veal, with a wine reduction sauce and shaved truffles. The agnolotti was truly home made, a little thick, but again delicious and the truffle flavour came right through the dish. Even the baby ate 4 pieces of agnolotti.!
  10. Haven't been to the Trattorie Nelle Vigne, but it looks very pretty to be sure and hope to get your review! Did I post a restaurant guide? Must have been sometime ago, hope its not of of date - I would favour Schiavenza over Rosa de Vini in Serralunga, and Tacabanda is our #1 in Asti this year, although Paulo at Pompa Magna is pretty good too and he has an enoteca so you can get wine by the glass. But Dogliano is a bit far from Asti though. If you have the time we would love to have you stop by for a glass of wine and introduce the bambini. If you are in the Roero come up to Asti via San Damiano and we are just close to the roundabout with the wine bottle at Palucco on the main Asti road. Late afternoon is good as baby has had nap (and adults too!)
  11. So you settled on Dogliano, very nice just at the edge of the Piedmont wine "zone" and on the boundary of the Alte Langhe, which reminds me of New Zealand sheep country with its rolling hills and pastures, but does have some nice little towns and villages, and will have wonderful little osterie that no-one has discovered on this forum I am sure! And you will be close to the Langhe-around-Alba "sub-zone" with its list of restaurants beloved of all visitors. I don't think you will have a problem with your bambino at any of the smaller mom and pop osterie, Italian love kids, and even for lunch at the more famous places.Mid October would be considered too cold to eat outdoors by Piedmont standards, but if you get a warm day, why not? We do at home outside of Asti. Regarding the Northern Monferrato, it will be about an hours drive north to Cocconato or Moncalvo, but I would say spend a whole day, a slow day for sure if your bimbo can handle it. We have an 9 month granddaughter currently staying with us, and on trips to Liguria in summer about an hour was her limit, which was just about the time to get to Noli from Asti, as long as there wasn't traffic on the autostrada. I would have the same advice for Acqui as it is also about an hour over a couple of river valleys, nice if you like up and down windy hills. Suggestion; explore the Roero area on the west side of the Tanaro between Asti and Alba, pretty wine country, lots of nice towns and castles and many little restaurants, including the superb Al Enoteca in Canale. The Roero has an lot of trails around the sandstone "Roero rocks" eco-park which could be fun to explore with your child on sunny days if you liked to hike a bit. Have a great stay in Piedmont!
  12. I thought this story was overblown. The restaurant is expensive and they do have a menu with prices? I have been severely overcharged in a night club in Tokyo where there were no charges listed and a large number of "ladies" drinks were added to my bill without my authorization. However a refusal to pay with a request for them to call the police if they wanted produced a negotiable sum. Japanese are also notorious for being reluctant to make a fuss. When I was living in Hong Kong there were often stories about Japanese tourists being overcharged in night clubs there (same story as my experience in Tokyo, except they paid up and complained afterwards when they were sober). If I had money to splash I would eat at this restaurant, except that I would choose La Pergola of the Hotel Eden rooftop first.
  13. Normally I would not have bothered to write a negative review about a restaurant, but we felt so robbed by the place and 1 good antipasto and 2 OK dolce does not justify 140 euro! The food sat in our stomaches for hours and rubbery gnocchi means it was made the night before. (BTW I am copywriting the term gummy-bear gnocchi!) Yup, just too many other places in Piedmont to work through.
  14. I go to Levanto from time to time for diving, not for fine dining! Usually take lunch at the hotel Nazionale which has a nice vine covered courtyard, and good food, but wouldn't say it was outstanding. Asked our dive master where the locals go, but it was closed for lunch, I think Osterie Tumelin, behind the park on the East side of town and up a narrow stepped alley. Most restaurants in Cinque Terre would obviously cater for tourists, but some must be better then others, ask around. Slow Food lists Cavour in Levanto, Ciliego in Monterosso, and Ripa del Sole in Riomaggiore. Don't miss a boat trip to Portovenere for the seafood restaurants along the waterfront - no specific recommendation they probably are all much the same although SF lists Antica Osteria del Carugia. If you are going to Genoa I have some personal reccomndations there. Look forward to your report on what you found!
  15. We haven’t been eating out a lot this year, Rina is just too good as a cook and has been wowing guests who stay for dinner. But as a combined birthday treat we decided to try a new restaurant that has been catching some great reviews locally, Prufumo di Vino in Treiso. The owners of Profumo di Vino, Memmo, a Mexican from Baja Californian and Cameron, a Scot who grew up in Colorado both worked in Ciau del Tornavento in Treiso and left a year ago to open this restaurant and wine bar facing the main piazza opposite the Osterie Risorgimento,a local favourite. After a wonderful wine tasting with one of Piedmont’s pioneer lady wine-makers, the fabulous Chiara Boschis of E.Pira in Barolo (pira-chiaraboschis) we wound our way around Alba up to Treiso on a truly gorgeous Piedmont day – we had a thunderstorm the night before and the day was fresh and sunny with reach out and grab me Alpine vistas). Profumo di vino The restaurant is quite modern in aspect, but open and friendly feeling. We sat on the outside terrace facing the piazza and the mountains and relaxed for a long slow lunch. Treiso Piazza The wine list was reasonably extensive as should befit a restaurant in the heart of the Barbaresco area, as it was such a warm day we decided on an excellent metodo classico (champagne style) sparkling Arneis from Giovanni Negri in Neive. The bread was all home made and included some of the best grissini I have had in Piedmont. Our first hint of disappointment came with the Amuse Bouche served on an aluminium ladle, stewed turkey and vegetables with too much vinegar, killing the aperitivo wine. not Amused Bouche Oh well, lets move on we thought, I ordered an antipasto of fried rice balls in squid ink with fried calamari heads in yellow pepper sauce; this was by far and away the best dish, the calamari was perfection and the sauce divine. Squid rice balls and calamari But Rina’s antipasto, apparently a signature dish, uova in pasta, which she ordered to see how they could handle a technical dish was disastrous – the egg yolk was almost raw, (we were actually confused how they achieved this), it needed lemon juice and parmigiano to balance it out. Uova in pasta Now we are getting worried and even more after the primi piattis: I took gnocchi with fresh tomato and mozzarella sauce , again to see how they could handle this dish which can be heavenly if prepared properly. Heaven was not on call that afternoon, I likened it to gummy-bear gnocchi, I couldn’t eat it. The sauce was OK, hard to go wrong with humble tomato sauce, mopped it up with the bread (at least that was good) Gummy bear gnocchi Rina ordered tomato pasta ravioli stuffed with seafood with and herb-flavoured oil. There was no explosion of flavour, the seafood didn’t taste fresh, rather fishy in fact and the pasta was dry. Ravioli stuffed with seafood Rina had decided to take a plunge and order roasted rabbit rolatini with sautéed pepper sauce, even though she loves rabbits as pets, but I don’t think she will order again. The rabbit was dry and tasteless, the peppers should have been peeled and the roast potatoes tasted oily. Rolled Rabbit w sauteed pepper My second was roasted quall with rosemary sweet onion relish and olives. It was OK, not over-cooked or dry and tough, but the olives on the side didn’t quite match. Roaste quall They served was an excellent and refreshing pineapple granite (sorbet) which helped suppress the queasy feeling in the stomach after the secondi piatti. Pineapple granite Still hungry we braved the dolce and they were excellent and did go a long way to salvaging what was becoming a disastrous outing. I had baked peach stuffed with biscuits and guanduaja chocolate. Stuffed peaches Rina had a nocciola (hazel nut) tasting plate with a beautiful light torte, a rich mousse and a light meringue and we washed it down with an excellent Moscato Passito. Degustazione di nocciole The bill was 140 euro which was in my opinion very dear for the quality and what we have paid at far superior restaurants in Piedmont. We didn’t ask to meet the chef as we felt it would have been too hard to be polite. Overall we were disappointed to have chosen this restaurant when there are so many wonderful places yet to try in Piedmont, too bad we didn’t go to Ciau del Tornavento down the road or Duomo in Alba for our outside treat. I am at loss to understand why it has been getting good reports, maybe the novelty of a Mexican-Scottish owned restaurant in Piedmont? Maybe we just hit a bad day for the chef, but sorry to say, we cannot add Prufumo di Vino to our list of restaurant recommendations.
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